Chartered with the goal of developing an inexpensive means for SMEs to search for patents, European researchers have recently launched a powerful patent search service.

The Innovall system, an eTEN-funded project, can provide a search of patent databases through a user-friendly website. It allows individuals to conduct research into patents, trademarks and design rights.

The methodology used by the search tool is claimed to improve on the common word-only search model.

The user is asked to insert an 'action' and a 'subject' (e.g. 'reduce friction'); to which synonyms are then added (e.g. 'grip', 'resistance') to capture conceptually related documents, rather than just the ones where the exact words appear.

Because of the way it works, Innovall's results are claimed to be more relevant to the user than those from competing systems, as it can deliver relevant intellectual property information across many different industry areas.

Presently, Innovall is considering a variety of business models. One plan is to leave simple search functions free, and then charge tiered subscriptions for more detailed or specific searches.

Researchers are still working on the finer details of the project and will continue to do so until March 2009, when they hope to have their business plans finalised.

However, the Innovall tool can be accessed now at But you need to register before you can access it. If you have not registered, send an e-mail to for free access.

Source: Some of the material used in this article was adapted from ICT Results